By on June 13, 2017

2017 Honda Civic Si Coupe Red and Blue, Image: © 2017 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

2017 Honda Civic Si

1.5-liter inline-four, DOHC, direct injection (205 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm; 192 lb-ft @ 2,100-5,000 rpm)

Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive

28 city / 38 highway / 32 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

Base Price: $24,775

As Tested: $24,975 (w/ summer tires)

Prices include $875 destination charge in the United States.

After a four-hour journey that included a ferry ride across the Northumberland Strait from Prince Edward Island, we arrived at one of the largest import car meets in Atlantic Canada in Bedford, Nova Scotia. There, owners showed off rows upon rows of cars in varying states of modification and personalization, from tasteful to tasteless.

My car club friends and I walked though to say hello to other folks we’d only previously chatted with on our local import forum, all the while gawking at some of the wildest vehicles east of Quebec. Body kits, massive turbo setups, and convoluted engine swaps ruled the day. But I only remember one vehicle vividly, parked at the end of a row and free from the usual slack-jawed, drooling masses: a pristine, unmodified, 1999 or 2000 Honda Civic Si Coupe (actually an SiR in Canada) still wearing its factory Electron Blue Pearl paint.

To me, back in 2007, this was automotive perfection.

Fast forward some 10 years later. I had the chance to meet the 2017 Honda Civic Si, a quicker, more mature, and more usable younger sibling wearing a similar shade of blue — then proceeded to act like a 22-year-old again and drive the ever-living snot out of it.

Let’s get a few things out of the way first.

If you’re interested in the intricacies of the Civic’s interior dimensions, cargo capability, or infotainment system — beyond the Si not being available with navigation — feel free to read our many reviews of the more sedate Civic sedan. And since the Si isn’t available as a hatchback, you can read our Civic Hatchback first driveour comparison with the Mazda 3, or wait until our Type R first drive review on Wednesday, June 14th. Everything from here on out will relate to the Si specifically.

As we do for all first drives, it’s time to disclose some things: Honda flew me to California in a commercial aircraft, put us up in a nice hotel in Los Angeles, plied us with a selection of meats, and flew us by private charter from LA to the Mojave Desert to fling its newest addition to the Civic lineup around the Honda Proving Center (which Honda would’ve sold during the recession if it weren’t for nobody being interested in it). There was a racing simulator at the hotel that’s worth about the same as a lightly optioned S-Class. It was good fun. My keepsake of the trip is a hat I’ll never wear again.

2017 Honda Civic Si Test at Honda Proving Center, Mojave, California, Image: © 2017 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

Paper racing

It’s easy to ignore the new Civic Si when looking at a spec sheet.

Peddling the coupe and sedan through the corners is the same non-VTEC 1.5-liter turbocharged engine seen elsewhere in the Civic lineup, as well as in the new CR-V and forthcoming Accord. But while the turbo mills in the “normal” Civics and CR-V only produce between 174 and 190 horsepower, the Si gets a turbo-boost bump to 20.3 psi to crank up output to 205 hp, which it transmits to the front wheels through a six-speed manual — the sole transmission. Need an automatic? Honda ain’t your bro, son.

2017 Honda Civic Si Coupe Blue Rear 3/4 by Lake, Image: © 2017 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

Still, compared to the outgoing, naturally aspirated Si, the new model offers a net change on the horsepower ledger of naught, which makes you wonder if Honda’s taken the same road Subaru’s traveled with the WRX over the last 10 years. Why not just get a normal sedan or coupe and buy a tune from Hondata?

Thankfully, the new Si receives a generous heaping of torque thanks to its newfound ability to gobble copious cubes of atmosphere — up 18 lb-ft of torque to 192 over its previous generation. Now pair that bump in torque with a 120-pound lighter chassis, a wider track, longer wheelbase, and the Si’s first-ever adaptive damper system. It all starts to make a bit more sense — and maybe just enough to stop you from opting for a tuned turbo Civic.

2017 Honda Civic Si Test at Honda Proving Center, Mojave, California, Image: © 2017 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

Will it track?
After a short chalk talk, we headed out to a cordoned-off corner of Honda Proving Center to put the Civic Si through its paces. Being we were in the heart of the Mojave Desert, temps were high and the air was dry. If the Civic were to choke out, it would be here.

The streamer-aping pavement put the Civic through a few different on-track scenarios: A long-sweeping left was followed by a tight-ends right, then a climb over a bridge was immediately proceeded by a heavy, downhill braking zone and a 90-degree left-hander. The rest of the track offered up variations on that theme, pitching the sport compact to-and-fro like a Bozo The Clown Bop Bag.

2017 Honda Civic Si Coupe Blue Front 3/4 by Lake, Image: © 2017 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

In 95 degree heat, the Si’s brakes were the same at the end of the day as they were at the beginning (though these cars wore optional Honda Performance Development stopping kit), its $200 option Goodyear Eagle F1 tires gave up just enough grip to let you know when you were pushing that little bit too hard, and its suspension was sharp enough to communicate the location of the pebbles on the road without compressing your vertebrae over the larger yumps and woops. And those active dampers? Not bad, but the system is simple compared those found on much more expensive competitors.

Yet the new Si feels a bit sedate in this setting. Gone is the raucous nature of the previous car’s screaming VTEC at redline. Removed is the Si’s hunger for candy-caned apexes. Even though Honda equips the Si with unique seats to keep driver and front passenger from being married to the center armrest or door panel, it was as happy rounding the track at 40 mph as it was at 70. Even when asked to push its limits with the drive mode set to Sport instead of Comfort, the Si simply responded OK instead of offering an enthusiastic YES!

For those who need to drive their toy home after that last time has been clocked at an autocross weekend, the Civic Si is perfectly fine, totally acceptable, and infinitely admirable in the same way a clean pair of jeans is acceptable in nearly every modern social situation. But sometimes you want to dive into the deep end of the swimming pool, and thankfully Honda has the Type R for that.

With this track-going demeanor in mind, the Si is not unlike the Volkswagen GTI — spirited, but easy to handle — and I haven’t heard anyone hold that against Wolfsburg’s famous hatch.

2017 Honda Civic Si Coupe Green In Motion, Image: © 2017 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

Will it road? Sí.

After our morning at the track, we took on Caltrans’ finest works of art around Mojave, where the Si again showed its similarities to Germany’s finest.

After wrestling with the Si in the heat, we sunk into its comfortable but supportive thrones for our highway and canyon drive. The road ahead ventured out into the mountains and back to Honda Proving Center, which meant this drive needed to be a pleasurable jaunt to justify its road to nowhere.

2017 Honda Civic Si Coupe Red and Blue in Canyon, Image: © 2017 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

For the first leg, my compatriot and I set the cruise and enjoyed casual conversation as the Si plodded along in sixth. As we approached slower traffic, dropping the cog swapper to fourth and rolling into the throttle were all that were necessary to squirt past on California’s two-lane. Even bumpier bits didn’t unsettle our road-trip repartee.

In the canyons where we nipped and tucked our way around corners and tourist traffic, the Si was a bullet shot from a silenced gun, delivering on our kill commands without theater. I’m sure our fleet of testers drew no aural ire from locals, even though we were concentrating more on maximizing our velocity between the painted lines than we were cognizant of any posted limits.

2017 Honda Civic Si Coupe Blue by River, Image: © 2017 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

But the absence of typical sport compact pomp and circumstance makes me wonder: what’s the point? Even with all the go-faster kit over and above the normal sedan and coupe, does the Si’s lack of auditory amplification make it less fun? Does it make it forgettable?

Then I remember: that sixth-gen Si back in 2007 made no noise and caused no ruckus as it sat in a parking lot amid the crowd of onlookers, yet it remains seared into my memory to this day. Maybe this is the perfect Si all over again, for that 22-year-old me of the future. But not today, Honda. Not today.

[Images: © 2017 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars]

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62 Comments on “2017 Honda Civic Si First Drive Review – VTEC, No; All ‘Bout That Turbo, Yo...”


  • avatar
    matt3319

    The Honda purists are all up in arms over the 1.5T’s HP rating. Its the torque that is much more important here. Yes, I was hoping for 220-240HP too. But has one Honda engineer said it would have priced it closer to the Type-R. Honestly I bet the Si’s motor will dyno more than stated. Maybe even 220HP. The base 1.5T(non Si)has seen some dynos hitting 190-200HP. I think its a huge improvement over the last Si in just about every way. Honda even hints at s SiR model to fill the gap. I still would probably get the GTI since I’m older(45) and owned a 2016 for a bit. Just be thankful you can still get a manual in most Civics.

  • avatar
    noneuimport

    So Honda just made uglier, (maybe) more reliable GTI.Meh.

  • avatar
    Malforus

    Now correct me if I am wrong but another reason for opting for the Si over a Sport would be the LSD right? Honda packed a mechanical Limited Slip Differential into the Si but it uses a brake based VSA system.

    I mean I get that its splitting hairs but please name me a car within $8k that offers a mechanical LSD.

    Yes I know the Focus RS has one but see 8k statement.

  • avatar
    Meat

    So how does the Si sedan stack up against the Korean 200-ish hp sedan? Similar power but the Elantra Sport with the Premium package gives up 158 lb and 5 mpg highway. MSRP of the two is similar but the street prices of the Hyundai are probably a few grand less. I wonder if that would be enough to differentiate the two.

    Also, I wish the Energy Green color was as option on the Si Sedan. I’d force my sons to climb into the back seat just for that color.

    • 0 avatar

      Good call on the Elantra GT. It’s a fantastic car with more usable interior controls than the Civic. Will it lap as quick as an Si? I doubt it. Does it matter? Probably not. The Elantra is going to be the more livable of the two, I think.

    • 0 avatar
      dougjp

      I own an Elantra Sport and am totally baffled by ” the Elantra Sport with the Premium package gives up 158 lb and 5 mpg highway “? What is this supposed to mean and where did the info come from? The Elantra Sport has more torque than the Si !

      • 0 avatar
        Meat

        I’m not sure what’s so baffling about that. Info came from both manufacturers’ websites:

        Curb weight: 2906 lb (Si sedan) / 3064 lb (Elantra Sport, M/T, Premium)
        EPA ratings: 28/38/32 (Si sedan) / 26/33/29 (Elantra Sport, M/T)
        Horsepower: 205 hp @ 5,700 rpm (Si) / 201 hp (Elantra Sport)
        Torque: 192 lb-ft @ 2,100 rpm (Si) / 195 lb-ft (Elantra Sport)

        It means that on paper they are very close with the edge on track performance likely tipping slightly in favor of the Civic. The key differences I see are the value for money offered by the Elantra sport versus performance features on the Si such as the mechanical LSD and adjustable suspension. Better highway efficiency as well. As Mark mentioned in reply, the Elantra has more refinement and more mature styling.

        Given the choice between these two I’m 55% sure I’d pick the Elantra Sport and save a couple grand, but I haven’t driven either of these yet.

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          Si dash makes me puke. But Si has better controls. Si has better interior design but Sport has hand brake vs electronic. I like brakes on Elantra better, Si brake pedal felt numb. Both have nice seats but Sport comes only in leather, which I don’t like. But you can get Sprt without sunroof, which I don’t like and Si has standard. Elantra has usable center rear seat because floor hump is very small. But Si has better clutch engagement.

          This goes just like this – pick your poison. I would probably pick Elantra because when you drive it, it feels more refined and most likely $3K cheaper out the door.

          • 0 avatar
            duffman13

            Leaving aside the LSD on the Si, the Sport is the better value proposition, probably drives just as fun, and has some luxury features (HIDs, leather) included in the base price, all while looking more mature on the outside. Plus the Elantra has a normal looking gauge cluster.

            I like the Si’s interior better (feels less cheap, even with leather in the Sport), but the difference in final sale price is the killer here. With Hyundai rebates and discounting, plus fanboyism in favor of the Si, i wouldn’t doubt there is a $5k difference in average transaction price.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I know the styling on this car is…ahem…controversial, but look at the proportioning on that little coupe. And the rear end works better on the two door model. Damned attractive, if you ask me.

    Could be a candidate at lease turn-in time in a couple of years.

  • avatar
    earthwateruser

    There was once a time when I lusted after the Civic Si with its sexy and smooth double wishbone suspension and combination of sportiness, reliability and usefulness. The new Si is undoubtedly a more capable and rounded automobile than all prior versions, but it doesn’t stir my soul like the 3rd, 4th or 5th gen Civic Si hatchbacks. -500 Abarth driver.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      The 99-00 were arguably the most classic, but for my money I’d get the best 8th gen (06-11?) I could find. Still has true Big-cam VTEC, revs to 8k, Hondata flashpro compatible, and modern enough without being full of electronic nannies.

  • avatar

    That is one sinfully ugly car.

    • 0 avatar
      Meat

      It’s certainly not as clean as the 8th gen civic that’s for damn sure. The coupe has the significantly better rear bumper though. The shorter grills are much better than the overly large ones on the sedan.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        I find the coupe gorgeous across the board. Within constraints of it being a modern, functional, daily driven car. Not just a piece of sculpture.

        The Sedan a bit malproportioned. But noone seems to be able to do these swoopy, coupe’y sedans right to my eyes, except Jaguar. And Aston with the Rapide.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Agreed, Honda tried to use the same basic language on the sedan, but it doesn’t work all that well. But look at the proportioning and lines on that coupe – it all works beautifully.

    • 0 avatar
      RedRocket

      Someone on another forum called it “juvenile-looking” and I think that is apt. Nobody over 30 should be seen in one.

      • 0 avatar
        Noble713

        Because of course grown men over 30 should be so sensitive to external validation that other people’s perceptions of their taste in performance cars should cause them to re-evaluate their life choices. Or something.

        It looks like a Gundam, which is entirely appropriate coming from the land of giant robots. http://tokyobling.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/gundam_odaiba_4289.jpg

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        I’m 53, and I’d take a Si coupe in a heartbeat.

  • avatar
    Rick Astley

    I’m sorry, but every time I see pics of the Civic SI the first question that comes to mind is “why does it have two anuses in the back?”.

    The rear bumper “anuses” are neither svelte, sporty looking or beneficial in any way.

    • 0 avatar
      Noble713

      “The rear bumper ‘anuses’ are neither svelte, sporty looking or beneficial in any way.”

      On supercars it’s done to a) improve airflow across the brakes and b) extract air used to cool rear-mounted radiators/oil coolers.

      I dunno if either of those is applicable to the Civic Si but there *are* practical engineering reasons for them….conceptually at least.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Honda has got the FUGLY game going on.

    It looks like a Veloster & Honda Crosstour mated.

    The brave new gen of Honda mills with hairdryer turbos will be good for about 1/2 as many miles as their predecessors before puking.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Counterpoint for folks marveling over the 1.5T’s specific output. ~200HP out of 1.5L = 133HP/L. Wow! Impressive right? Not when you correct for boost. Atmospheric pressure = 14.7. Boost (assuming peak boost is at peak power, which isn’t necessarily true) = 20 psi, so the pressure of air going into the engine is 34.7. 133HP/L * 14.7/34.7 = 56 HP/L atm. Not so impressive. Actually, pretty awful.

    Now given that this is Honda’s new K-series engine, essentially, I’m sure the aftermarket will remedy this swiftly (hopefully with new cams). But a big part of me wishes this had got a detuned version of the 2.0T, which was the relationship every previous Si had with its corresponding Type-R. Oh well.

  • avatar
    syncro87

    These new Civics (wife has one) have really thin sheet metal. Thin to the point where putting a bike rack on the roof would be ill advised, in my opinion. Fit owners face a similar situation, with many reporting dented roofs when mounting a bike rack.

    Thankfully, you can get a hitch for the Civic and use a hitch mounted bike rack, which probably makes more sense than carrying bikes on the roof anyway.

    Which brings us to the Civic Si. The silly center exhaust precludes a hitch, most likely, which ruins the car for anyone wanting to haul a bicycle, or at least this person (me) who wants to haul a bicycle.

    I’d totally be in on a car like this, but that one thing is a deal breaker. Boo.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Kudos to Honda and Hyundai for trying to keep the entry level fun affordable with the Si and Enlantra Sport.

  • avatar
    BC

    Has anyone seen the all new 2000 Saab 9-3?

  • avatar
    vanpressburg

    It costs in Canada exactly as much as Subaru WRX.
    WRX is much more powerful and it has much better LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.95 g.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      So you’re saying it comes with stickier tires.

      I respect the Si for having a LSD, but it is hard to imagine choosing this over a WRX for Canadian weather.

  • avatar
    mmorales

    sportyaccordy: I’m sorry, but this math is not saying what you think it is. Specific output just tells you whether it is a high revving motor or not. If you stare at the math specific output is related to the RPM of maximum power (or more precisely, how well an engine breaths as a function of RPM).

    Given a certain volume of air, there is a certain amount of gas you can burn and thus a certain amount of power you can achieve. Multiply the air volume by the (full throttle) thermal efficiency and you get the hp (after converting units). So it all comes down to air volume you can stuff into the engine.

    The old VTEC engines got more air in by breathing well at high RPM. The higher the revs the more air per second is sucked in, and the VTEC valve magic and short stroke allowed them to keep efficiently filling cylinders with air at very high RPM.

    The new engines suck more air in with a turbo. They have a narrower cylinder with longer stroke (better torque at expense of smaller valves), and no VTEC, so produce their peak power at lower RPM.

    So what your math is saying, by normalizing out boost, is that the new engines produce their power at lower RPM. We already knew this. In fact it is kinda the point of the new engine design. It is a little sad to see the screaming VTEC go away, but it does not imply that new engine is any way less efficient. It just isn’t a high revver.

    Now what would be interesting is to know the full throttle efficiency of the new engine. I’d bet the new engine is more efficient (DI gives better charge cooling, better sensors, lower RPM, power recovery with the turbo providing power on intake stroke, etc.).

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      On the flip side, those engines breathe great at high RPM but are garbage at 3k efficiency-wise. As a serial Honda/Acura owner, I would say the following:

      I get great mileage on track, especially compared to similarly powered turbo and larger displacement cars. In my S2000 I can get 3 30-minute sessions out of 11 gallons of gas, while a mustang or WRX is filling up after 2. In my old RSX, I could get a full day of 4 sessions out of the tank, K20 being newer than the F22C.

      On the road though compared to anything with similar displacement (2.0-2.5L) mileage is bad to awful. The S200- gets 23-25mpg on the highway on a good day. The RSX might crack 30. The compromises from those aggressive cam profiles are notable in everyday driving.

  • avatar
    EX35

    Hard to justify buying this econobox when a 310hp ecoboost mustang can be had for $20K, or $26K for a v8 Mustang.

    • 0 avatar
      Meat

      Where can I get a new 2017 Mustang GT for $26k?

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        You can get a new Mustang GT in the metro Detroit area for around 27k, and get a decently equipped one with better brakes and some other upgrades (maybe a track pack with a manual) for under 30k before TTL, particularly with the ubiquitous program codes offered by the many OEMs and Tier I and Tier II suppliers that populate metro-Detroit (having a population in the 5 county “heart” of the state, comprised of Oakland, Macomb, Wayne, Washtenaw and Livingston that contains some 6 million people, or roughly 54% of Michigan’s total population of just under 11 million people, which is making so bad that I want to break sh!t daily lately, and either telecommute to work, or move to another state – that’s how much I detest traffic, which is one of the worst kind of time-sucks and mind-f*cks ever to have been created by the automobile, sprawl, and the interstate highway system that made it all possible via induced demand).

        I’ve also seen nine other states having sub-markets where prices on these and other vehicles is as or nearly as nearly as competitive as the metro Detroit area, with those being Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Colorado, California, Indiana, Ohio and Texas.

      • 0 avatar
        EX35

        Pretty much any decent dealer will sell you a base GT for $26K now. Wait until October when the 2018 redesign is released and you’ll probably be able to pick one up for under $25k.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      A Mustang is about as practical as a screen door on a submarine. Nice car, but pretty useless other than to go fast and look cool. Also, for me, too much of a boat of a thing. I like my cars relatively small. Serious case of apples and oranges, no matter how fast they are for how cheap.

      Though even if the Honda wasn’t completely hideous inside and out, the lack of a hatch means I have no interest at all. Though bravo on the transmission choice.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    “Need an automatic? Honda ain’t your bro, son.”

    HELL. YEAH.

    Even though I bought a Hyundai, Honda is still my bro.

    If Honda ever needs to ditch the manual transmission, they should just kill the Si and Type-R lines at the same time.

    Really curious to see a Civic Si vs. Elantra Sport comparo.

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    Ugly.

  • avatar
    Eyeflyistheeye

    The Si was designed in an alternate universe where 8th graders make up the majority of car buyers.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I’ve never understood why Honda, Toyota, Subaru have to always tart up their sport models with ridiculous add-on garbage like the wing on the Si. It just looks stupid, boy-racer, and frankly if I were to ever shop a car like this again, the styling alone would cross it off my list no matter how good it drives, which is a shame.

    Then look at the Focus ST and GTI. Just a couple subtle cues. Looks sportier but not ridiculous.

    I had a 08 MKV GTI and really loved it. Was a better all-around car than any of the other competitors at that time. So I’m probably OK with Honda moving more in that direction. I’d buy a GTI again, but not the 4 door only model they have now. And I’d be interested in a Si if not for the absurd styling.

  • avatar
    Ion

    Using “si” in response to questions about the civic si is brilliant. I used to have a coworker who dressed up a base civic with si parts. Another coworker (who had an actual si) and I would always bust his chops and ask him how his Honda Civic yes was doing.

  • avatar
    Heino

    Mark, just curious as to why the name is SiR in Canada. Is it because Si means “If” in French?

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      In some markets the Si was known as Civic Type R. Probably an abbreviation.

      That, and Canadians are a respectful people. I hear they’re introducing an Odyssey Ma’am next.

  • avatar
    Chicken Daddy

    I’ll take mine in black please.


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